Monday, October 31, 2005

Today's Paper

David Montgomery in today's Inquirer:

On old school vs. new school:

"If you're young, you're more into statistics. If you're older, you're more into the head and feel. I actually think that it's a hybrid of those two situations. Gerry and I talked at length about this. I don't think the needle should point all one way or the other. I think, shame on you in this day and age if you don't use statistics to evaluate. But shame on you if you don't take a look at a person and try to know everything you can about them before you sign them as an amateur or before you trade for them or whatever. I think there's great value in each. There are a lot of theories there."

Doesn't this make a lot of sense? It may seem extremely obvious, but so many people fail to grasp it. Montgomery gets it. Maybe there is some hope after all...

Geoff(rey) - Separated at Birth

Geoff Geary


Geoffrey Giraffe

All we have to do is get Mr. Geary a snazzy Toys "R" Us sweater (if only I could find a way to type a backwards "R"...), black sweats, a pair of four-fingered white gloves, and some washed out Converse shoes and send him out on the town for some Halloween hijinks. It's the perfect costume. I can't be the only one (or rather one of a very select few, I must credit those who also see it and embrace it) who see the uncanny similarities between Geoff and Geoffrey. I refuse to believe it.

On a somewhat related note, this must be one of the top-5 Phils moments I saw live at the ballpark this year:

7/10/2005 - I'd expect nothing less comical from our favorite Toys "R" Us kid.

Phillies Baseball Presents: Thoughts on 2006 Roster Composition

Whomever David Montgomery settles on in the Great GM Search of 2005 (I see the Phillies ranking potential candidates in order as follows: Gillick, Hunsicker, Amaro, Arbuckle, everybody else right now) will have plenty of work to do after getting the job. Goes without saying, but I said it anyway. That’s what you do when you have no other way to introduce something new. I’ll stop embarrassing myself and just jump right into some thoughts on the potential roster composition of your 2006 Philadelphia Phillies. It should be noted that these are merely one man’s opinions and a topic like this is very much open to debate. There are more than a few guys that could easily be argued into different categories and even some that probably should have their own entirely, separate categories. It is all highly speculative and subjective – that’s what makes it fun to talk about.

Locks to be Phillies in ’06 (4):

Starting 2B Chase Utley
Starting SS Jimmy Rollins
Starting Pitcher Jon Lieber
Starting Pitcher Brett Myers

The keystone combo of Utley-Rollins will not be broken up. No way. Utley may be the Phils only untouchable at this point and Rollins will be in the first year of his extension and, as we all know, begins the year with a 36-game hitting streak. The only question surrounding Lieber and Myers heading into ’06 is the matter of which pitcher throws on Opening Day. Even that issue may not be in doubt after the Phils swing a deal for that “true number one” starting pitcher everybody has been waiting for. Best to keep waiting on that one…

Very Likely to be Phillies in ’06 (12):

Starting Catcher Mike Lieberthal
Starting 3B David Bell
Starting LF Pat Burrell
Starting RF Bobby Abreu
Starting Pitcher Cory Lidle
Relief Pitcher Rheal Cormier
Relief Pitcher Geoff Geary
Relief Pitcher Aaron Fultz
Pitcher Ryan Madson
Outfielder Jason Michaels
Outfielder Shane Victorino
Infielder Tomas Perez

If I was less of chicken, more of these guys would be on the lock list. For example, I am 99% sure Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary will start the 2006 season as members of the Phillies bullpen. They both did solid jobs and continue to play for low salary, team controlled contracts. Fultz should be an easy enough arbitration case, if it even comes to it, and Geary has less than three years of big league service so he is locked in as well.

Cormier will join them in the bullpen unless the Phillies truly believe he is done and eat the remaining year on his contract. This has not been the Phillies style and, in this instance anyway, I am okay with it. Cormier has the widely accepted weird every other year trend in his career (one good year followed by a bad year – repeat) and we can all agree that 2005 was a bad year. The only problem with this is that it isn’t statistically true – that’s a different story for a different day. Back on topic, I am by no means advocating keeping him out of the hope he’ll have a good year because it’s a year ending in an even number. I would keep Cormier around based on the simple idea of sunk costs. This principle explains that if the Phillies believe it is worth more to their team to pay $2.5 million to Cormier NOT to pitch, they should let buy him out and let him walk. If a guy is hurting your team, then you must swallow hard and cut him loose. What is better: paying $2.5 million to a guy hurting your team (negative VORP), or paying $2.8 million combined to the guy you cut and some kid making the league minimum from your farm system who is at least an average (positive or zero VORP). Bottom line - If the Phils can find a taker for Cormier willing to pay his salary, they have to do it. I just don’t see that happening.

For the record, I like Cormier and would personally be willing to have him on the 25-man roster going into the season. I think he is at least a smidge better than league average at what he does when used properly. I hate paying him what they do, but the check has already been handed out so what can you do about it now – he is getting paid no matter what.

Jason Michaels is an interesting case. His name has been floated in a few random trade rumors while at the same time he could very well be the leading candidate to start in CF next year (at they very least he’d play in some kind of platoon). I think that is exactly what will happen. Michaels will be the starter in Center some nights and be a key bat off the bench on the other nights. He’ll be on the team and he will play, one way or another, in just about ¾ of the Phils games (120 games or so).

His platoon partner might end up being Shane Victorino. Victorino was impressive in his September and was relied on heavily by Charlie Manuel off the bench. He pinch hit in pivotal late game at bats, pinch ran as the tying, go ahead, or insurance run, and served as the occasional late game defensive replacement. He has nothing more to prove at the AAA level. There are many ways Shane Victorino’s 2006 could shake out. Best case scenario he seizes the CF job and develops into a high OBP guy at the top of the order with good speed and pop. Worst case scenario (not actually worst, but worst that I can see happening) is he flops as a starter or one half of a platoon and settles into his role as a fourth outfielder who can pinch hit, pinch run, or play defense in the late innings. That pretty much sums up his September role with the ballclub come to think of it. As a backup outfielder, is there any way Victorino can be less useful than Endy Chavez? If there is, I’m certainly not seeing it.

Perfect world scenario – Burrell and Abreu in the corners, stud everyday guy in center, and Michaels and Victorino are you versatile, play anywhere backup outfielders. That would be a deep and dynamic 5-man outfield and the bench would be that much stronger. My bottom line here is that I expect both Michaels and Victorino to be on the 2006 team unless the Phils are blown away by a trade offer including either. Oh and there ain’t no such thing as a perfect world.

Now there is a chance that both Michaels and Victorino will be starting for the Phils in 2006. That is one perfect transition to a discussion on the futures of two longtime Phillies – Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. I have no factual information to back this up, but I have a feeling that one of the two guys will not be back next year. I touched on this topic a while back and hope to get into it later in more detail, but for now I think we can still rationally assume that both Burrell and Abreu will be back in 2006. Even with my gut feeling, I still am confident in their placement on the Likely to be Phillies list. It should be clear, however, that it is not impossible to imagine either being dealt this offseason. Not likely, but not impossible. Let’s leave it at that for now.

One last thing on that large group of outfielders. I personally am not one to advocate violence, but an age old axiom comes to mind concerning a certain spear-fishing/bottle cap baseball loving outfielder. I believe the quote goes something like this: "Every winning team needs a guy who can beat up a cop - you never now when a skill like that can come in handy." Right or wrong, the logic behind that little truism isn't for me to judge. I'm merely the messenger here. Draw your own conclusions.

Mike Lieberthal and David Bell were lumped together in many discussions throughout the year, so it makes sense to treat them as entity here. I’m getting to the point where I feel I can only defend these knuckleheads so much. I won’t either bother to defend them here, but I will say this – both will make more than they deserve this year and are all but unmovable this offseason. They will almost definitely be Phillies again in 2006 unless the Phillies are able to trade their garbage contracts to add some new garbage contracts from another team. Be patient, ride out one more year of each player, and it’ll all be over soon. At least we can always be thankful these two have never gotten into trouble for punching cops. Allegedly punching cops. My mistake.

The Phillies should really try to add a backup catcher who can play two or three times a week. The more rest Lieberthal gets over the course of a season, the more effective he is when he does play. I don’t have the stats to back it up at this moment, but anybody who watches the Phils on a regular basis can probably attest. The catching free agent market this year is devoid of any real talent, so the slightly above average Ramon Hernandez and the incredibly overrated Benji Molina will get ridiculously out of whack contracts that will begin hurting their respective new clubs the moment they are signed. When we hit the upcoming Free Agent Class Preview (coming soon!), I think it would be wise to keep an eye on undervalued backup types that could potentially help the club. And if all else fails, they’ll just bring back Todd Pratt to backup another year anyway. If brought back, Pratt makes as good a candidate as any to be the leading Phillies cop puncher in '06.

The Phils should also look to add another third baseman to the mix. An ideal guy would be someone who has hit righties well and would sign for one year to platoon with Bell. I actually like what I see out of some potential free agent targets, but I’ll keep that under my hat until the Free Agent Class Preview (coming soon!).

Cory Lidle is under contract for only $3.3 million in 2006 making him a great bargain for the Phils. He is a dependable back of the rotation type guy that more than likely will be on the team next year. I would be fairly shocked to see him dealt anywhere (despite very much unconfirmed rumors of interest from both Texas and Tampa). Cory Lidle should still be a Phil in 2006, but where he slots into the rotation is an entirely different issue. If Lidle is the third starter next season, this team could have a problem. Lidle is a nice, innings eater that fits in nicely as a 4th or 5th guy on a staff. He is just about a league average starting pitcher which makes him a bargain at just over $3 million a year. The market for good starting pitching is really that crazy.

Tomas Perez has another year on his contract, so I expect him to be back in the red and white next year. The bad is obvious – Tomas isn’t a very good major league baseball player. I can’t imagine much argument to the contrary. There is good though and that’s why the Phillies gave him a 2-year deal in the first place. Perez seems like a good clubhouse fit with this team, he is a switch hitter, and he is decidedly above average at all the infield positions. I’m not sure if I agree that the goods outweigh the bad, but there are worse 25th guys on teams out there I suppose.

Ryan Madson is a guy that will be rumored to be out the door in every major trade package this time of year. There is also rampant speculation that he’ll be converted to a starter this spring and will fill a key rotation spot in 2006. I like the sound of that much better. His repertoire seems better suited for a starting role and he has lots of success as a starter in his minor league career. I think he’ll stick around in 2006 as a member of the rotation and begin to entrench himself as a core guy in the eyes of the new Phillies management.

We’ll hit Question Marks, Phillies Free Agents, and some other assorted Phils without fun categories on the 40-man roster tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Generic News Update

Josh Byrnes to Arizona is a done deal, Brian Cashman and Jim Bowden are officially back with New York and Washington respectively, and, perhaps most relevant to the Phillies ongoing GM search, Paul Depodesta was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

DePo to the top of the list?

Email from the Phils #2

Dear Phillies Fan:

Late this afternoon, a conference call with the media was held to update them on the search for a new General Manager. I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a summary of the conference call.

During the past two weeks, more than 40 candidates have either been identified by us or have directly or indirectly expressed interest in the position. After reviewing and evaluating this list, we have selected a group of individuals for one-on-one interviews.

Thus far, I have conducted three interviews: Mike Arbuckle, our Assistant GM, Scouting & Player Development, on Wednesday; Gerry Hunsicker, former GM of the Houston Astros, on Thursday and Pat Gillick, former GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners and the current Special Consultant in Seattle, today.

I expect to continue this process through the weekend, including interviewing Ruben Amaro, Jr. on Sunday, followed by one or two more interviews early next week and more, if necessary, with the hopes of identifying our new GM as soon as possible. As I've indicated, getting the right person is of the utmost importance.

On another matter, a question arose concerning the dimensions of Citizens Bank Park. We have always wanted to have a ballpark that plays fair. After extensive study and charting every home run the past two seasons, we have decided to make changes to the existing left field wall. Details on this project will be forthcoming.

As always, thank you for your interest in the Phillies.


David Montgomery

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Phillies Have No GM

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I really do, but I think it is fair to now question the direction the Phillies are headed. To put it rather bluntly, David Montgomery's GM search ain't going so well. The most important decision this franchise has faced in a decade and the early returns are not encouraging. Certain candidates the Phillies were rumored to be interested in are quickly disappearing from the market - this can be seen as both a good and bad thing.

It is good that Brian Cashman will return to the Yankees. It is very, very good that Jim Bowden will, in all likelihood, return to the Nationals. Crossing those two names off the list is addition by subtraction. The problem of the list being rather disappointing in the first place remains. As candidates begin to drop out, others rise up a notch. Ruben Amaro Jr. is one of the others. Though it may sound terrifying to Phils fans, Amaro might very well be the leading candidate as of this second. The fear lies in the fact that many in baseball question whether he is actually Ruben Amaro Jr. or more of an Ed Wade Jr.

Montgomery and the Phillies have been very slow throughout this process. Rumored interest in Cashman was hot at first, then Hunsicker was brought back up, then they changed gears and were forced into sorting through the Billy Wagner mess (gut feeling: he's gone, but at that price it's not such a bad thing), and then finally their supposed interest in Cashman peaked (as he was finalizing his new deal with the Yanks - naturally). We find out in the Inquirer today that the Phils haven't even contacted Hunsicker about the job. Maybe with Cashman out of the picture and Hunsicker's talks with Tampa Bay beginning to get serious, the Phillies will wake up and go after the guy many believe they had targeted from the day he resigned from the Astros. Another name beginning to generate some momentum is Pat Gillick. It should also be noted that the Theo Epstein negotiations in Boston are beginning to get personal. Two names that could be climbing up the list and should not be counted out quite yet.

It is very hard to tell what Monty is thinking with all the secrecy cloaking the interview process. It is frustrating, but it offers a glimmer of hope. The Phillies are taking their time and being quiet about the interview process because they have found the perfect guy and don't want anybody else to know about him. Only after days of intensive interviews will they unveil him (or her) to the welcoming open arms of the Philadelphia fanbase. It could happen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Catching Up

Potential GM candidates for the Philadelphia Phillies:
  • Brian Cashman, GM New York Yankees
  • Gerry Hunsicker, former GM Houston Astros
  • Jim Bowden, GM Washington Nationals
  • Theo Epstein, GM Boston Red Sox
  • Pat Gillick, former GM Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays
  • Dan Duquette, former GM Boston Red Sox
  • John Hart, former GM Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians
  • Kevin Towers, GM San Diego Padres
  • Frank Wren, Assistant GM Atlanta Braves
  • Wayne Krivsky, Assistant GM Minnesota Twins
  • Mike Arbuckle, Assistant GM Philadelphia Phillies
  • Ruben Amaro Jr., Assistant GM Philadelphia Phillies
Pat Burrell and Kenny Lofton both underwent cleanup type procedures over the weekend -

Jim Duquette, Dan's cousin and late of the New York Mets, is off the Phillies list of candidates after getting a job with the Baltimore Orioles - Washington Post

I should mention more clearly what the list above is all about. It is a combination of two things: 1) Any name connected to the open Phils job in any possible way, and 2) Any viable candidate that could be looking for a job within the coming days. It's an interesting and diverse group to say the least. My question to you - am I forgetting anybody?

Friday, October 21, 2005


Courtesy of

Mike Lieberthal had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, a standard procedure that isn't uncommon for a veteran catcher.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Steve Lombardo of the Kerlan-Jobe clinic in Los Angeles. Lieberthal is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

"It's a cleaning-out procedure," said assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "It's not a structural thing. It's just something that happens to a guy who's been catching for 15 years or so. I think Mike will be healthier as a result."

Health is a relative term as it relates to Lieberthal. While the 33-year-old hasn't spent a day on the disabled list since the 2001 season, he's had recurring discomfort in his knee. This year was no different. Nevertheless, Lieberthal played in 118 games and batted .263 with 12 homers. He struck out 35 times, a career low for a full season.

For the second straight season, he was especially good in September. He batted .304 with 10 RBIs in the final month, including one game in October.

There is a good deal that can be said about Mike Lieberthal and his 12-year tenure (soon to be 13 years, my apologies to the Lieby haters I know are out there) with the Philadelphia Phillies. All things Lieberthal will be discussed shortly in what hopefully will be an extensive, detailed look at all offseason and 2006 roster possibilities. In the meantime, again my apologies to Lieberthal's many haters, I present the player with the career most statistically similar to Mike Lieberthal through his age 33 season. Both players were born in 1972, both were first round picks, both have only played in the major leagues with one team throughout their respective big league careers, and both have been All-Stars. Take a look (

Player             Years        G    AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB    SO     BA    OBP    SLG    SB   CS   OPS+
Mike Lieberthal 1994-2005 12 1107 3932 506 1080 241 10 141 573 323 541 .275 .339 .449 8 7 103
Jason Varitek 1997-2005 9 965 3178 433 865 212 8 119 488 360 693 .272 .350 .456 23 13 107
I'm not drawing any conclusions yet, I'm just saying...

Email from the Phils

Dear _______:

On behalf of the entire Phillies organization, I want you to know that we appreciate your passion and loyalty. We know full well that without our fans there would be no Phillies baseball. I am writing to give you a brief update on ballclub matters.

As I am sure you are aware, a search for a new General Manager is underway. Our intent is to conduct a thorough and intensive search in order to select a General Manager who will get us to the postseason and bring a championship to Philadelphia.

We know that we have work to do this offseason. Getting the right person as the General Manager is step No. 1. From there, we need to make the necessary improvements to get our win total over 90 games, capture the division title, and play in the postseason.

Looking back on the 2005 season, although we didn't achieve our goals, we believe that there were very positive signs for the future. The players played hard to the very last day in Washington. They never gave up and battled to the end for a postseason spot. Some individual performances were outstanding. Jimmy Rollins' 36-game hitting streak during the pressure of a pennant race was a remarkable feat. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard -- two young players who excelled in clutch situations and fed off the energy of our passionate fans -- provided great excitement. Many other achievements and strengths could be mentioned, but we recognize there is more to do and we intend to do it.

Thank you for your support throughout the 2005 season and past seasons. Our entire organization is very appreciative of the dedication exhibited by Phillies fans. We will not take that for granted and we will work hard each and every day to earn and keep your support.

We look forward to providing you with further updates as we proceed during the offseason.

David Montgomery

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Candidate #6

(6) Josh Byrnes, Assistant GM of the Boston Red Sox

Byrnes has a nice mix when it comes to his educational background. He graduated with a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree from Georgetown and a Master's in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts. Business knowledge mixed with sports knowledge seems like a pretty good combination. Too bad Mr. Byrnes didn't pay close enough attention in any of his Business Ethics classes...

This is from Tracy Ringolsby's column in the Rocky Mountain News on August 1, 2005. Take it anyway you want, but with as little as we have to consider these assistant GM types on, little things like this can go a long way:

The Colorado Rockies thought they had the nucleus for the 2006 season in place.

They dealt Joe Kennedy to Oakland in a deal that brought back prospect Omar Quintanilla, a perfect left-handed-hitting complement for the middle infield mix that also will include Clint Barmes and Luis Gonzalez.And Friday night they felt confident that they had addressed the other areas of concern in the lineup, acquiring catcher Kelly Shoppach and center fielder Adam Stern from Boston, a right-handed complement for either Cory Sullivan or prospect Jeff Salazar.

The Red Sox told the Rockies they would trade them Shoppach and Stern if the Rockies could deliver outfielder Larry Bigbie from Baltimore, who the Rockies acquired for outfielder Eric Byrnes, another part of the Kennedy deal.

Only one problem.

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd thought the Red Sox word had value.

It doesn't.

Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan found that out 12 months ago. Part of a four-team deal that resulted in Nomar Garciaparra going from Boston to the Chicago Cubs, Ryan was supposed to get a prospect from the Red Sox. Boston reneged after the deal was made.

Florida general manager Larry Beinfest could have warned them. Two years ago, the Red Sox backed out of a deal with the Marlins for Kevin Millar. Then, when Florida put Millar on waivers so he could go to Japan, the Red Sox claimed Millar.

On Saturday morning, O'Dowd had a voicemail from Josh Byrnes, the Red Sox assistant general manager who had been handling the Shoppach negotiations. It said the Red Sox had reconsidered and wouldn't make the trade. It turns out Byrnes didn't have the authority he claimed to have had in negotiating with the Rockies.
That shouldn't be a total surprise.

Byrnes originally was hired into baseball by O'Dowd in Cleveland, came to Colorado as O'Dowd's assistant, walked out in the midst of his contract, negotiating a deal in Boston before he even mentioned it to O'Dowd, and has actively tried to get rehired by the Rockies several times since.

He's the guy who devised the statistical evaluation process that led to the Rockies acquiring third baseman Jeff Cirillo and unloading shortstop Neifi Perez. He orchestrated the trade of catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Jody Gerut to Cleveland for outfielder Jacob Cruz. He was in the middle of the muddled negotiations that led to the Rockies failing to sign Matt Harrington, their No. 1 draft choice in 2000.

In 1999, his one year anniversary as scouting director in Cleveland, he oversaw arguably the worst draft ever, and four years later not one of the players he signed in the first 10 rounds was in pro ball.

He's the one credited in the Red Sox media guide with the development of Jason Jennings, although upon coming to Colorado he berated original Rockies scouting director Pat Daugherty for wasting a draft pick on Jennings. The guide also mentions Byrnes oversaw the drafting of Jeff Francis, who actually was evaluated and selected by current scouting director Bill Schmidt.

He's also the guy who complained to a writer that he left Colorado because "you aren't promoting me" for a general manager's job.

__________________END OF ARTICLE_________________________

This is only one man's opinion. However, stories of the Red Sox showing signs of poor baseball trading ethics have been run in various outlets over the past couple of seasons. Let's pretend that stuff either doesn't matter or has been greatly exaggerated. Let's instead look at a few of the transactions mentioned in the Ringolsby's article.

Jeff Cirillo had two highly productive years with the Rockies after coming over in a trade that had Colorado move Justin Miller, Henry Blanco, and Jamey Wright. I see no way that can be considered a bad deal for the Rockies. Cirillo hit .326/.392/.477 his first year and .312/.364/.473 his second year in Colorado. His power numbers never jumped as much as I'm sure the Rockies would have liked (considering in the park factor of Coors Field), but he still had two good years for any third baseman on any team. He was even an All-Star in 2000 for Colorado. On top of all his production as a Rockie, Cirillo was even valuable on his way out - the team dealt him to Seattle for Jose Paniagua, Dennis Stark, and Brian Fuentes. Brian Fuentes was a 2005 All-Star for Colorado and has 269 strikeouts in 232.2 career innings pitched. Two good years out of Cirillo and potentially six good years of cost controlled quality relief out of Fuentes.

Unloading Neifi Perez is always a good thing - career line of .270/.301/.380. That is significantly below average. When a guy with numbers like that is your starting shortstop AND you are paying him $3,550,000 like the Rockies did in 2001, that is beyond terrible. The Rockies managed to convince the Royals to take him off their hands in return for Jermaine Dye, who was then immediately traded to Oakland for three prospects (Todd Belitz, Mario Encarnacion, and Jose Ortiz). At the time, this trade looked great for the Rockies as Ortiz was a big time 2B prospect and Encarnacion was thought to have all the tools to be a fine multi-talented OF. Neither panned out (Belitz was a non-factor), but the trade was still a success for the sole reason that Neifi Perez had played his last game as a member of the Colorado Rockies.

The trade Ringolsby mentions with the Indians was really not that bad for the Rockies. Gerut and Bard are both useful players if utilized properly and Cruz has been a flop, but it is hardly a deal the Rockies can look back on with regret. Gerut is a decent fourth outfielder (.263/.334/.434), maybe more of a fifth on a good team, and Bard is barely serviceable as a backup catcher and that is being quite generous (.238/.289/.370).

That is my defense of Byrnes. Truth be told, it is more of a knock of the poor examples given in the article than anything else. And it was totally unplanned and more of a random, rambling tangent about players of my era that I like writing about. Byrnes does have a spotty player acquisition record (as far as we can tell with him only being an assistant - notice the running theme of the last few days?) and an undeniably bad draft history. Where does this leave us? Well, I still have to rip Byrnes as thoroughly as I know how to further illustrate my overall disdain for him as a professional. Mr. Byrnes record of repeated displays of general attitude problems and subsequent temper tantrums to team officials working below him and members of the media do not scream qualified GM candidate to me (that is one ugly sentence, but it is too late to word it any better - sorry). His record of player development, something that should be of very high importance to the Phils on their search, is pathetic. He has not shown himself to be a good judge of young talent nor does he appear to have the leadership skills needed to be the main man in an organization. Big thumbs down to Josh Byrnes.

My first candidate, Dayton Moore, is still my personal favorite. I will go on the record now that he has a 0.0000% shot of getting the GM job with the Philadelphia Phillies. Prove me wrong, Davey, prove me wrong.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Candidate #5

(5) - Chris Antonetti, Assistant GM of the Cleveland Indians

I should have made this public about a week ago when I first started combing through the list of potential GM candidates, but it just occurred to me today. All of my analysis on these candidates comes with a warning: I wouldn't truthfully recognize any of these guys if the all walked through my door right now. It isn't easy to pass judgment on assistant GM types as they often don't have much of a researchable background of personnel moves. All general managers have their assistants play different roles; one assistant might be heavily involved in scouting, while another might specialize on player contracts. It is difficult to really get an idea of how any random assistant GM would do when promoted without actually seeing the day to day operations and understanding what exactly their responsibilities are. So the judgments I make may seem a bit superficial, but they are all anybody currently not employed by an MLB team has to go on. I stand by the position I have taken on each candidate for the job thus far.

Meanwhile, Chris Antonetti graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University in 1996 with a business degree and earned a masters in sports management from the University of Massachusetts in 1997. He is viewed as a statistical pioneer for his work on the statistical database DiamondView. Every day during the season DiamondView electronically collects game statistics, injury reports and updated roster information for the nearly 6,000 major- and minor-league players in professional baseball. It is difficult to even comprehend how valuable a statistical tool this could be for a big league front office. I could get into the potential impact of DiamondView on the game of baseball, the Stats vs. Scouts debate (I personally find this topic very interesting), or even the merits of going out and hiring this guy when you can just travel westward a bit to Cleveland and just steal his damn machine. I could get into those things, but I won't. I'll try to keep it focused on Antonetti and some of his overarching statistical philosophies.

Statistics are now an essential player evaluation tool. I'd like to think that much is crystal clear to anybody with even the tiniest bit of baseball knowledge. The manner in how statistics are used and manipulated is an entirely different topic. To that end, I think Chris Antonetti might have taken simple stats and gone too far by making some fairly outlandish assumptions. From this article:

I wouldn't hate this Thome on the '06 Phils

Back in 2000, when the Indians were preparing for negotiations with then-Indians slugger Manny Ramirez, Antonetti examined championship teams' player salaries. He found that no World Series champion between 1985 and 2000 allocated more than 15 percent of its payroll to a single player. In addition, he determined the higher percentage of payroll a team spent on one player, the lower its winning percentage.
For example, teams that spent 17.5 to 20 percent of their payroll on one player won 47 percent of the time. Teams that spent 7.5 percent or lower on one player won 53 percent of the time.
Antonetti concluded there was a significant decline in a team's chances to make and advance through the postseason if it allocated more than 15 percent of its payroll to a single player. On average, his analysis found, successful teams spent a little more than 12 percent on their highest paid player.
Not surprisingly, then, Antonetti recommended that Thome's contract should not exceed 15 percent of the Indians' team payroll in any season in which management felt the club had a "legitimate" chance to contend for the playoffs. Why? Because they needed the salary flexibility to acquire other players to put together a winning team.
Ideally, Antonetti said, Thome's salary should make up about 12.5 percent of the payroll.

The logic here is all wrong. Teams with higher payrolls win more games than teams with lower payrolls. It is a generalization, but it is statistical proven to be true. I hope we can all agree on that. This makes proportion of payroll consumed by one player irrelevant. Why do teams with the most expensive player making a lower percentage of their payroll win more than teams that don't do this? They can afford a very expensive player (think Alex Rodriguez) and still have such a bloated payroll (think over $200 million) that the percentage the one expensive player is paid isn't significant.

Team A has a guy making $10 million out of their $100 million payroll. That's 10%. Team B has the same guy making $10 million, but with a payroll of $50 million (20%). In this case let's imagine that it is the same player on each team being paid $10 million putting up identical MVP numbers. The player is worth that $10 million, but the team that has an extra $50 million to spend (Team A) is going to be the better team more often than not. And wouldn't you know, they have a lower overall percentage of their payroll tied into one guy than Team B. See how this could be proven out over time statistically and yet show no real correlation to the conclusions stated. There is both evidence of bias and multiple hidden variables in this situation and they are ignored by Antonetti. Not cool. (I probably should just call "Team A" the Mets or the Phils and "Team B" could be the Nats or Rangers - just keep those teams and their matching payrolls in mind if you like)

To be fair, Antonetti also argues the increased payroll flexibility of not having so much money tied into one player. That is a valid point. But it is also, hopefully anyway, common sense. Look at the Phils with Thome, Burrell, Abreu, and company. Tying up $77.75 million in just 11 players is no way to run a team. Again, this is true, but it is also common sense and was not "proved" to be true by his statistical research.

Antonetti is a very intelligent man with a vast knowledge and understanding of the significance of statistics in baseball. I love that and I think that this is a necessary asset for any of the new GM candidates looked at by the Phils. However, his over reliance on statistics and the puzzling conclusions he makes from them concern me enough to the point where I can not endorse him for the GM job. Antonetti needs to prove to me that he can put his statistical knowledge to good use, before I would consider him. The limited information I am working with show me that he is not yet ready.

I should mention it is only on a rare occasion that I will ever knock anybody for being a progressive enough thinker to utilize statistics as it pertains to baseball - you are advised to NOT expect another occasion like this for a good long while.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Candidate #4

Candidate #4 with Kaz Ishii

The more information that comes out about some of the other potential GM candidates, the more I find myself liking Dayton Moore as the choice. Every candidate is going to have certain positives and negatives, but more and more potential candidates are coming up with questionable records than I personally expected going into this search. Here is the first of three of the last "no-name" candidates. These three will prove to be, in my humble opinion, the most controversial and complex personalities and pedigrees discussed so far.

(4) Kim Ng, Assistant GM and VP of the Los Angeles Dodgers

The career path Kim Ng has followed really makes for a great story and her credentials are extremely impressive - graduate of University of Chicago (BA in Public Policy), work with arbitration and contract negotiations with the White Sox, Assistant GM and VP of the Yankees and now Dodgers, and Director of Waivers and Player Records. I think she'll make a very good GM someday. I just don't think that day is today. She lacks the background in scouting that is often a prerequisite for getting a high profile general manager job. Truthfully, her negotiation skills and work on some big name arbitration hearings (Eric Gagne's comes to mind) might be strong enough to outweigh her weak scouting background especially if she is hired along with an accomplished scouting director.

One other thing about Kim Ng bugged me and it is through no fault of her own. Read what Dan Evans had to say upon hiring her as Assistant GM/VP:

"I was going to hire Kim or leave the job open," former Dodgers GM Dan Evans said. "She's used to winning. She's the only one in our office who went to the World Series the past four years and didn't have to buy a ticket."

Her credentials speak for themselves. She was more than qualified to get the job she currently holds with the Dodgers. But, come on! This might be some of the most asinine logic I have ever heard. I mention it not only because I enjoy getting angry at things I have no control over, but also because I like mentioning things that make me angry and relating them back to the Phils. I think many Phils fans are clamoring for Brian Cashman solely based on the Yankee pedigree - he is a Yankee so he must be a winner. Obviously, the Yankees must know what they are doing to some degree. They have had tremendous success over the past decade and the men and women in charge are clearly doing what has to be considered at least a good job running a major league organization. However it is a huge jump to say that a person is qualified for a job just because they are associated with a winning organization. Does that make every employee of the Yankees deserving of a promotion elsewhere? "She's used to winning" is just not enough for me. I would need to know what she specifically contributed to said winning in order to pass any kind of objective judgment on her individual overall job performance. Obviously Dan Evans is no idiot and I am sure he did plenty of research on Kim Ng before hiring her. That overly simplistic quote scares me because it wouldn't be too big of a shock to hear the same thing said in a couple of weeks by David Montgomery about the candidate he decides on.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Candidate #3

(3) David Forst

David Forst, 27, graduated Cum Laude from Harvard University in 1998 with a BA in sociology. He has worked for the Athletics the past five seasons and currently holds the duel position of Assistant GM and Coordinator of Professional Scouting. His primary duties include assisting Billy Beane in all player personnel moves, contract negotiations and statistical research, advance scouting and statistical analysis at the major league level, and coordinating pro scouting assignments and scheduling.

The decision on the next GM of the Philadelphia Phillies will not come down to who is the single best, most qualified candidate for the job. It is more important to the franchise than that. The choice of whom the new GM will be, at least partially anyway, will depend on the fans. Does anybody real see this Phils ownership group thinking outside the box and hiring a 27-year old, Harvard grad from a "Moneyball" organization to lead the team?

The new GM will be a retread. Think more along the lines of Gerry Hunsicker, one of the Duquette cousins, Brian Cashman, or (the odds are small, but it scares the heck out of me) Jim Bowden. Chances are slim that a first time GM will be hired. Think about the manager search last year - same old retreads were interviewed and first time managerial candidates were never given legit opportunities.

Some team will be very happy they hired David Forst in the not too distant future. I'm certain of that. Sadly, I don't think it will be the Phillies. He is a good candidate and I personally think very highly of him. Evidence is found in what the A's have been able to do the last few years with the current management team in place. Hard to deny the success they've had on the budget they've operated under. Forst ranks second behind Dayton Moore as a guy whom I'd like to see lead the Philadelphia Phillies.

Just Can't Get Enough...Duckworth

After Randy Wolf pitched the Phillies to a 3-1 victory over Greg Maddux and Atlanta on October 2nd, 2001, the team found itself just one game back of the Braves with two more games at Atlanta and three to finish the year at Cincinnati. The Phils fell two back the next night as Tom Glavine beat 15-game winner Robert Person. Hope was not lost, however, as rookie Brandon Duckworth had a chance the next night to bring the team back within 1 game with 3 to play. Check out the starting lineups for that one (
Philadelphia Phillies         Atlanta Braves   
1. Rollins ss Giles 2b
2. Anderson 2b Franco 1b
3. Abreu rf C. Jones 3b
4. Rolen 3b Jordan rf
5. Lee 1b Surhoff lf
6. Glanville cf A. Jones cf
7. Burrell lf Sanchez ss
8. Pratt c Bako c
9. Duckworth p Burkett p
Bobby Abreu hit a double and scored a run on a Scott Rolen RBI single in the first, but it was all down hill after that. Duckworth allowed 3 runs in the first and another in the second. This 4-1 deficit proved to be too much for the Phils to overcome as they eventually fell 6-2. Duckwoth went 4.1 innings, with 6 hits allowed, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts, and 4 earned runs. It was only his 11th big league start.

The Phils were 2 games back with 3 to go. The season was over. Of course, in typical Phillies fashion the team went on to sweep the Reds in Cincinnati. Omar Daal, David Coggin, and Randy Wolf held the opposition to just 3 runs total in the 3 games. Jose Mesa saved his 41st and 42nd games of the year. Starting lineup for the last game of the 2001 season:
Philadelphia Phillies 
1. Hunter cf
2. Forbes 2b
3. Abreu rf
4. Burrell lf
5. Jordan 3b
6. Pratt 1b
7. Punto ss
8. Estrada c
9. Wolf p
It should also be noted that Marlon Anderson hit cleanup on the second to last day of the year. This has been the only time in his career he has batted 4th and, predictably enough, he just so happened to have a 5-hit day including 3 doubles. Anderson has batted in every spot in the lineup (1-9) in his career.

Back to Duckworth though - I do remember that game against the Braves and just being very confident going in. Duckworth may have been a rookie, but he always gave the impression he was a very levelheaded rookie (maybe due to the fact that he was old for a rookie). Either way, the Phils went down and the Braves took another division title. One last thing to think about - Brandon Duckworth pitched the most significant game of his life in his 11th big league start. I doubt he'll ever pitch in a more meaningful game. Maybe it's just me, but that's pretty wild stuff.

Starting tomorrow the schedule gets a little bit more focused: More GM candidates, an overview of available free agents by position and maybe some predictions of where they'll end up, a little feature on the two "mystery" free agents, and, as always, a continued look at the transactions from around the league. I'm flexible though and always open to requests. But that is the rough outline as we head deeper into October (and putting it in writing makes me more likely to remember/follow through on some of those ideas).

For the record, one of my least favorite words to spell has to be Cincinnati.

Although after writing it about a half dozen times over the past 48 hours, I think I finally got it. Maybe.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Three More Ballplayers

Just a couple of names to consider as more and more players are cut loose each day...

D'Angelo Jimenez was let go by the Cincinnati Reds on Monday. Right off the bat, it should be noted that there appears to be something off about his 2005 season. Rumors persist that he clashed with Reds management and, no doubt because of this lack of understanding, was left to spend all but six weeks out of the year in Chattanooga. Whatever problems he had with the Reds must have been significant considering (A.) Jimenez was coming off a .270/.364/.394 season and (B.) he was owed $2,870,000 in 2005. Paying a guy almost three million dollars to bolster your AA squad is not good business especially when he represents your eighth highest paid player. So we have a bit of a mystery on our hands here - solid defensive middle infielder, good track record through his minor league career, back to back impressive seasons in 2003 and 2004, and he is M.I.A. in 2005. Not that it matters really, but Jimenez killed AA pitching this year. He posted a .823 OPS in 327 at bats. Jimenez has played the majority of his career at second base, but can also play third and is said to have improved his defense at shortstop during his stint in the minors. He has even pitched 1 1/3 innings - scoreless baseball by the way.

Should the Phillies even concern themselves with a guy like Jimenez? This is where a leap of faith is required. We have to trust a major league baseball team to be able to utilize their resources and connections within the game properly in order to do a thorough background check on this guy. If the guy is a jerk, then forget him. He would just be a utility guy anyway. However if the situation with the Reds was more complicated than Jimenez being a moody guy, he represents an upgrade of any of the current utility type guys (Tomas Perez, Matt Kata, FA Ramon Martinez) that could potentially be Phils in '06. 2006 will be the year 28 season for Jimenez - a one-year, make good deal as a backup infielder with a contender might make sense for all parties involved. Phillies would get a good bench player and D'Angelo would get an opportunity for redemption and a chance to parlay his opportunity to a starting job somewhere else in '07.

On Monday the Astros made a couple very interesting decisions concerning two pitchers that should interest the Phils for different reasons. Houston released both Scott Strickland and Brandon Duckworth. Strickland was coming off Tommy John surgery in 2005 - he only pitched 4 innings with the Astros. He pitched 32.1 innings in the minors this year rehabbing the injury, but reports claim his velocity improved with each outing. If his velocity keeps on improving, he would be a very interesting name for the Phillies to consider come spring as a non-roster invitee. Put Strickland in the increasingly crowded "Low risk, high reward" bin and we'll check back on him as the offseason progresses.

One last thing of note concerning Strickland - check out the deal he was involved in a few years back (thanks to once again):

April 5, 2002: Traded by the Montreal Expos with Phil Seibel and Matt Watson to the New York Mets for a player to be named later, Bruce Chen, Dicky Gonzalez, and Luis Figueroa. The New York Mets sent Saul Rivera (minors) (July 16, 2002) to the Montreal Expos to complete the trade.

I count 7 players involved in that trade. Has there ever been such a large trade with so little substance to it? Looks like a case of quantity over quality on both sides. Bruce Chen had a nice year this season, but when he is the best out of seven guys involved in a deal then the deal had little overall value to begin with. I just can't think of any other trade with so many non-descript ballplayers involved. A seven man trade isn't something you see every day either. Just a weird, weird trade any way you look at it.

Last man to discuss today - Brandon Duckworth. I don't advocate bringing Duckworth back to the Phils. However this won't stop me from rambling on about him.

Brandon Duckworth's legacy in Philly will always be as one of the three guys (Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio being the others) dealt to Houston in the Billy Wagner deal. He started 58 games for the Phillies between 2001-2003 and was seen by some as a potentially solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher developed by the farm system. He didn't pan out and his inclusion in the Wagner trade was one of Ed Wade's finest moves as GM of the Phils. It's funny, I probably saw nearly every single of those 58 starts Duckworth made while in Philadelphia, but I am having trouble with coming up with anything even remotely interesting to say about the guy.

I remember always rooting for Duckworth as he came up through the system. He was the ultimate baseball underdog. A 30th round pick that didn't sign, then a 61st round pick that didn't sign, then an undrafted free agent who latched on with the Phils organization in 1997. Duckworth's big league career can be called a disappointment and in many pure baseball respects it has. Maybe sometimes we forget to realize how impressive it is to even be in the position to make a major league club, let alone start 58 games in the Show. Duckworth is another ballplayer that really makes me feel old - he'll be 30 in January. I'll never get used to seeing the players I've seen develop right in front of my very eyes turn into grizzled veterans and eventually fade into retirement. Duckworth was a good guy during his time in Philly and hopefully he gets a shot with another major league club this offseason.

At the very least, I'll always remember the Duck Pond fondly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Candidate #2 - Come on Down!

(2) Dan Jennings, Vice President Player Personnel, Florida Marlins

In 1995 Jennings was hired as the first scouting director in Devil Rays history. Despite losing several premium picks as compensation for free agent signings, he helped stock the system to a certain degree through picks from 1998-2002. Jennings currently works for the Marlins where he earned himself a shiny, new World Series ring for his work on the roster construction of the 2003 championship squad.

Jennings is a tough guy to figure. I liked him initially because I love all the young talent the Devil Rays seem to have percolating down on the farm. That group of outfielders they have is something special and should be fun to watch for a long time. However, the question of how these players were brought in and by whom snuck up on me. A more detailed investigation is necessary. This deeper look caused some concern, so let's sort this out the old-fashioned way - Pros and Cons!


Aubrey Huff, Joe Kennedy, Brandon Backe, Carl Crawford, Doug Waechter, Seth McClung, Rocco Baldelli, Jonny Gomes, Joey Gathright, B.J. Upton, Elijiah Dukes, and Wes Bankston.

That's not a bad list of players and they are all guys Jennings selected while overseeing the Devil Rays drafts. Another important thing to consider is that outside of Baldelli and Upton (ironically enough the jury is still out on those two particular guys), all of the other players were not first round picks. The Baldelli and Upton comment, however, leads us right something I'm not so keen on about Mr. Jennings' resume.


Josh Hamilton, Dewon Brazelton - two absolute first round mistakes. Hamilton over Beckett has been a colossal failure in scouting and player development and while it is difficult to critcize the Brazelton pick due to an weak draft year and unmitigating contractual circumstances (Texeira let it be known he wanted a Major League contract and many teams removed him from their draftboard accordingly), you still need to come up with someone useful when picking 3rd overall in the draft. Those are picks you CAN NOT screw up. Upton will be a player, but he is currently a man without a position. The jury is out on Baldelli due to a strange injury-filled season (torn ACL and Tommy John surgery in the same season) and an overall lack of polish and patience at the plate even when healthy.

Huff, Crawford, and Gomes are plus players. The pitchers are fairly generic when viewed as a group. I like some of the younger guys (Dukes, Bankston), but only time will really tell how valuable those picks really were. High ceiling guys seems to be the general target of Jennings' drafts. This can be risky. Judging by the overall depth of the Tampa farm system, I just don't think Jennings did as much as he could have. The high end guys are all quality players. The young, raw guys each have the chance to be anywhere from very good (Dukes, Bankston again) to star-quality good (Upton), but the overall talent throughout the draft just isn't there.

Jennings had 5 drafts with the Devil Rays. That's good for roughly 250 players. I found 12 guys I like. The quality of each of those 12 guys is important, don't get me wrong, but for a team such as the Phillies that is expecting to be picking in the bottom third of the draft every year, a better track record of finding quality depth is needed. 12/250 just isn't good enough for me.

I would not hire Dan Jennings to be my Scouting Director, let alone the next General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Dayton're still the frontrunner.

1999 Draft - A Look Back

1999 June First Year Major League Baseball Player Draft

1-1Josh HamiltonOFDevil Rays
12Josh BeckettPMarlins
13Eric MunsonCTigers
14Corey MyersSSDiamondbacks
15B.J. GarbeOF/P
16Josh GirdleyPExpos
17Kyle SnyderPRoyals
18Bobby BradleyPPirates
19Barry ZitoPAthletics
Ben SheetsPBrewers

One real "star" quality player out of this top eight. Hamilton and Beckett were far and away the consensus top two players going into the draft. Hamilton was touted as the 5-tool high school outfielder with sprinter speed and a power hitter's frame. He really was the perfect prospect, physically anyway, on paper. Beckett appeared on the cover of Baseball Weekly (now Sports Weekly) the week leading up the draft. The cover compared him to great Texas high school flamethrowers from the past - Nolan Ryan - and the current version - Kerry Wood.

Their career paths could not have been any more different - amazing how different two people with so much in common on the surface can be. Okay fine, maybe the only thing they shared was a first name, but the way the media played that up you would have thought they were long lost brothers or something. "Two Joshes? What luck! This story is going to write itself!" Gotta love that mainstream media. Anyway, Hamilton has yet to play an inning in the big leagues (personal problems related to drugs and alcohol have driven him from the game for the time being) while Beckett has already started 103 games before his age 26 season. He also has a World Series MVP to his name. I consider that to be a pretty successful career so far.

Meanwhile, Myers, Garbe, Girdley and Bradley (and Hamilton for that matter) have combined to play in zero innings of zero major league games. These were the best and the brightest US amateurs in 1999 and five out of the first eight guys on the list can be considered complete flops by the respective organizations that drafted them. Luckily, we have Kyle Snyder. At least this guy is hanging around in the bigs. Snyder has gone 2-9 with the Royals in 28 games pitched. '06 will be his year 28 season, so it would be foolhardy to predict any kind of real success for him in the future. He may have some major league experience, but I think we can call him yet another disappointment from this draft class.

Zito and Sheets are each two-time All Stars and Zito even won himself a Cy Young in 2002. Much better. That's what a top-ten pick should do. Not much to discuss about these two players as their numbers do a good enough job of speaking for them. Other slightly less successful, but useful players picked in the first round include: Jason Jennings (16), Alexis Rios (19), Larry Bigbie (21), Mike MacDougal (25), Jerome Williams (39), Casey Fossum (48), and Brian Roberts (50).

The player that brought on this topic was one of Barry Zito's college teammates and the third overall pick of this draft - Eric Munson. I have previously mentioned why I like the idea of inviting Munson to camp. You need some degree of talent to be taken 3rd overall. There would be no risk in giving him an invite and seeing firsthand look at what he can do. Just to point out a the player who ranks as Munson's top comparable at age 27 (

      Player              From  To Yrs   G    AB    R    H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   SB   CS OPS+
Eric Munson 2000-2005 6 257 782 73 167 27 3 40 113 77 187 .214 .288 .409 4 2 84
Scott Brosius 1991-1994 4 240 692 79 165 31 2 26 91 44 118 .238 .285 .402 14 7 86

Brosius turned out to be a pretty useful player and he lacked the pedigree that Munson boasts. It's clear that even when picking in the top ten of the draft, scouting is quite a crapshoot. Munson hasn't delivered to this point in his career and maybe he never will. But on the off chance that he does step up, wouldn't he be a nice option off the bench for whomever the manager is next year? I promise after today, I won't mention Eric Munson and the Phillies until March at the earliest. I'm just trying to make an argument for a player, when taking into account his awful career numbers and the typical development curve of a ballplayer, needs a strong positive argument made for him to find a spot on a big league team come April '06.

For the record, the 12th pick in the '99 draft was Brett Myers - sandwiched between Ryan Christianson and Mike Paradis. Without a doubt, a good pick by the Phils. As far as the rest of the '99 Phils draft.....not so good. Phillies took 44 guys that year and by my count only one other guy ever played a game for the Phils (Marlon Byrd, 10th Round). Joe Saunders (5th) and Kameron Loe (39th) were both drafted by the Phils, but went unsigned. Saunders went on to Virginia Tech and was a first round pick of the Angels. He made his debut this year, but only as a September call up. Loe just finished an impressive rookie year with the Rangers. So, four major leaguers out of 44. This alone should eliminate Mike Arbuckle from consideration to be the next GM of the Philadelphia Phillies.

10/10/05: A Day to Remember

Jim Duquette, Gerry Hunsicker, Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, Chris Antonetti, Josh Byrnes, Wayne Krivsky, Mike Arbuckle, and Ruben Amaro Jr. That's just a sampling of the many candidates already receiving media speculation as potential replacements for Phillies GM Ed Wade.

I'll list my top candidates in the coming days, but the first candidate I'll mention is............

(1) - Dayton Moore, Assistant General Manager/Baseball Operations of the Atlanta Braves. Nothing beats hiring a great, young baseball mind while hurting a division foe in the process. Moore originally joined the Braves staff as a scouting supervisor for the Mid-Atlantic states and was promoted to the front office in August 1996 as an assistant in the Baseball Operations Department. In November of 1996, he was named Assistant Director of Scouting. In 1999, Moore worked added the title of Assistant Director of Player Development. In 2000, he became Director of International Scouting, a role he filled until he was named Director of Player Personnel two years later. He is now, as previously mentioned, the Assistant GM to John Schuerholz in Atlanta.

More will be added about Moore (absolutely no pun intended) and my other favorites in the coming days. The decision of who will be the next GM of the Philadelphia Phillies is of the utmost importance and, rest assured, it will be covered in frighteningly precise detail right here on these very pages. So rest up, it's gonna be a busy couple of days/weeks/months.

[Even though Ed Wade is gone, he definitely won't be forgotten here. The plan is an extensive look back on the Ed Wade Era in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for that - we can't really ever move forward without first taking a look back at where we came]

Monday, October 10, 2005

Breaking News

Ed Wade gone as GM of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Press conference scheduled for 4:00 today.

More details to come.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bench Dawgs '06

The Phillies had a terrible bench in 2005. There is no getting around it. The players on the bench individually weren't awful - I liked having either Michaels or Lofton ready to pinch hit for the other, Ramon Martinez is a useful player, and I am as big a Todd Pratt as any sane person can be. Probably one of the reasons why I love Pratt so much stems from the bench clearing brawl he was in the middle of in '93 (I think it was '93 - almost positive). He was a young player then, but his personality was exactly the same as we know it today. Plus they were wearing old-timey uniforms for that game - like from the early 1900's I think. They were something to see and even better in person After having said that, you just know I was there in person. I probably was at anywhere from 25-35 games that year. And I was 7 years old. It's really no wonder I am the baseball fan I am today after a year like that. I owe it all to great parenting. But back to the topic on hand, the Phillies bad bench. Pratt is ok, Martinez is ok, CF is ok, Matt Kata might be ok, Endy Chavez is deadweight, and Tomas Perez is inexplicably signed through next year. My question is: where is the power bat? This is the National League - you need a diverse, multi-talented bench to best exploit late game matchups. The truth is the manager probably would have no idea what to do if given such a bench, but that's a different problem for a different day. The best any GM can do is get the right 25 players for his manager to form into a cohesive, productive unit. What better place to start with the bench?

25 Man Roster Compositon

Let's say 12 spots are devoted to the pitching staff. That leaves 13 position players. There are 8 everyday players. You need a backup catcher. Most teams carry 5 total outfielders (2 on the bench). That leaves 2 spots for infielders. Ideally, one of the outfielders would have some pop and the other would be a good defensive replacement/pinch-running option. As for the infielders, ideally you carry one good glove middle infielder who can play some defense at any infield spot (natural spot being either 2B or SS) and run a little, and one 1B/3B type who strikes at least a tiny bit of fear into the opposing manager's heart. This doesn't take handedness into account (the breakdown of lefties and righties is important) and the "ideals" I write of are mine and are totally up for debate. However these are the assumptions we are going with.

The focus of today is on two recently released guys who fit the power hitter off the bench mold. Keep in mind that both of these guys have recently been released. Players get released for a reason. That being said, I see some value in both Matt LeCroy and Eric Munson as it pertains to the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies.

Matt LeCroy, late of the Minnesota Twins, hit .260/.354/.444 in 304 at bats in 2005. He also chipped in 17 homers and 50 RBIs. Not terrible numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but they get even better when you go deeper. Against lefties this year, Matt LeCroy hit a very impressive .306/.404/.621 in 180 at bats which was good for a 1.025 OPS. Those are excellent numbers. 180 at bats might not be enough proof for some - that's fine, there's more. From 2002-2004, LeCroy hit .307/.382/.554 against lefties (.936 OPS). That's 345 more at bats to draw conclusions from.

LeCroy made $750,000 last season and the Twins, not wanting to risk potentially paying him upwards of $1.5 million in arbitration, decided to cut him loose sooner rather than later. I don't advocate the Phils paying over $1.5 million for a bench player, but if he could be had for a number closer to $1 million or so for one year, he could be a real bargain. One thing to note: LeCroy is closer to a John Kruk body than a Gabe Kapler body. I hope we can all agree this doesn't really matter, but LeCroy just doesn't look like an athlete. Just thought I should mention that in case he does become a Phillie - wouldn't want anybody shocked to see him hanging out of his uniform that first day in spring.

LeCroy was used at DH more than any other position over the past 4 seasons, but he can play 1B, has very good pinch hitting numbers, and is a viable option as an emergency catcher. His 2006 season will be his age 30 season, so what you see is what get at this point. But what I see, I like. A right-handed, power threat who can play 1B on days the Phils don't want to subject Howard to a tough lefty, cause aggeta for managers in late game situations (any manager would be a fool to let any lefty face him late), and an emergency catcher to boot. I love that last aspect - the emergency catcher that can actually catch a bit opens up your regular backup catcher for regular pinch hitting duty. It's like getting a two for one. Matt LeCroy - make it happen Phils. (Does he take such a limited role on a team like the Phils? How important will money be on his decision as first time free agents can be tough to read? Any other personal reasons for wanting to be in a certain place of his choosing? - you just knew there were complications to this, there always are)

I'm admittedly less excited about the prospect of Eric Munson as a 2006 Phillie. He was extremely highly touted coming out of USC as the 3rd overall pick by the Tigers, but never panned out even after multiple big league chances. I could write a good long tangent on that draft and Eric Munson's background in baseball, but for the sake of brevity I'll skip that and focus only on his future. Maybe I will get back to that draft someday though.

Munson is a left-handed hitter, right-handed thrower and former third baseman of the Detroit Tigers. He was originally drafted as a catcher, but was moved off the position for defensive purposes (he wasn't very good) and because many a young prospect struggles with the responsibilities that come from the demands of catching to the point their hitting suffers. The Tigers considered his bat too valuable to subjugate to any kind of potential harm, so they moved him to 3rd. He never really hit enough to stick and after 5 years, he was gone. He went to ST with the Twins this year, didn't make the team, signed with Tampa, didn't make the big club, and only had 18 at bats in the majors this year.

His turned 28 last week (Oct. 3rd) so 2006 will be his age 28 season (No, I don't think you are too dumb to figure that out on your own, I'm just reiterating. Don't take it so personal). Stats were big in my argument for LeCroy. It didn't hurt that they were in favor of my argument. Stats will not be big in my argument for Munson. Take a wild guess whether or not they support my pro-Munson stance. Since 2005 was a wash, here is his line from 2002-2004: .224/.302/.437 in 652 at bats. That's not pretty. But then again, neither is Julia Roberts and she's a big star. Therefore, I can root for Munson being on this team stats be damned.

The reason I choose to ignore logic in Munson's case is the old risk/reward idea. Munson should be a non-roster invitee to camp. Why the heck wouldn't you take a chance on every possible lefty third baseman available? Unless we are happy about David Bell hitting .199 against righties (I've talked it over and we are definitely not happy about that)? Take a chance on Munson - a guy who can play 1B (did I forget to mention that?) and 3B, pinch hit, and, maybe, just maybe, you can reach him and tap some of that potential all the scouts raved about not so long ago.

I mentioned the ideal backup infield consisting of one power hitting, corner infield type. Munson fits the bill to a T (in theory...) and LeCroy, although he can't play 3rd, would be an excellent, albeit potentially highly pursued, option at 1B, emergency C, and off the bench. Talk to LeCroy and invite Munson to camp. Do those things and I'll be just a bit more optimistic about that Phillies bench in 2006. Because, come on, don't you just miss the "Bench Dawgs" of a few years ago? No? Ok maybe it's just me then. I thought "Bench Dawgs" was kind of cute. They had t-shirts and everything. They even dyed their hair together. Guess I'm the only one nostalgic for the days of the Bench Dawgs...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Sure Where This Leads Us

I am a big complainer. I complain about just everything. I complain about school, politics, work, sports, everything. I'm sure this makes me a heck of a lot of fun to be around, but it's just the way I am. But in my defense, I do make it a point to complain with a purpose. If I'm going to whine and complain about something, you'd better believe I'm one step ahead with a decent (at least in my mind) opinion on how to fix whatever I deem unacceptable. I'm sure a very good percent of the time my solution is hardly an upgrade at all over the problem, but at least I'm trying to think outside the box and not just complaining for the sake of complaining.

Having said all of that, I'll admit the connections to my upcoming argument are a bit shaky. Oh well. The argument may not correlate exactly with my complainer argument, but something about this baseball season frustrated me and I figured a nifty intro was the way to go about it. After the Home Run Derby during the All Star Break, an idea struck many Phils fans - with his trade value and national profile as high as it will ever be, the time is nigh to trade Bobby Abreu. Interesting enough, but there has to be more to it than that, right? Would we get anything in return for our best hitter? Any specific name out there to make the deal work? Prospects? Pitching? Another rightfielder? It seems to me that a lot of times, people come up with the idea of trading somebody, but have no idea what they can get in return. So, what's the point?

The Phillies need to get better. Pretty obvious, right? The real question is how do they go about getting better? What needs to change? I like the lineup as is. Minor tweaks are needed here and there, but it wouldn't be a shock to see 7 of the 8 starting position players return (CF still being somewhat of a mystery - Michaels/Victorino, maybe even Michaels/Lofton again?). The starting 8 is clearly a strength of this team. Abreu, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley are all legitimate stars at their respective positions. Ryan Howard should be the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. Jimmy Rollins will begin the '06 season with a 36 game hitting streak. The CF platoon did a unexpectedly fantastic job in the 2-hole this season and should hopefully either remain as productive (Michaels improving, Lofton continuing to hit up the fountain of youth) or produce at a higher clip (Victorino carrying over some of his AAA success). The somewhat longwinded point that I'm trying to make is the hitting will be good enough in 2006 for this team to contend for a postseason spot. However, the money spent on this lineup makes any move for a starting pitcher extremely difficult. 11 players at $77.75 million really restricts what a team can do. Especially when only 3 starting pitchers are included in that (Lieber, Myers, and Lidle).

Utley will not be traded. Rollins will not be traded. As good a job Michaels did this year, how much can the Phils expect to get for a 4th OF (albeit a very good one). Howard should not be traded, but the Phillies would be foolish to declare him untouchable considering there is still much to be decided concerning the Jim Thome Situation. For the sake of this discussion, let's say Howard will not be traded. Thome is still too big of a question mark to figure the Phils can get any sort of reasonable return on him in a deal. All this buildup for something that could easily been stated in one sentence. The Phillies best shot to land that coveted number one starting pitcher every team in baseball desires revolves around a blockbuster trade including either Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu.

Burrell is due $9.5 million in 2006, $13 million in 2007, and $14 million in 2008. Abreu is owed $12.5 in 2006, $15 in 2007, $16 in 2008 (or a $2 million buyout). Pat Burrell hit .281/.389/.504 and the '06 season will be his year 29 season (he'll turn 30 in October '06). Bobby Abreu hit .286/.405/.474 and will be 32 years old in March of '06. The numbers show Burrell being paid $6 million less than Abreu over the remaining years of their contracts, a 3-year gap in age, and the superiority of Burrell's '05 season to Abreu's. My question to Phillies fans - whom do you trade? Bobby or Pat? Neither? What do you look to get for either?

Strictly the Facts

Phillies Payroll 2006
  • Players under contract for 2006
My apologies for terrible formatting. I tried countless ways to get it to line up right, but no luck. It may not bug anyone, but it is killing me. Don't worry, I'll get over it.

1B Jim Thome................... 15.00 (dollars in millions)
RF Bobby Abreu............... 13.00
LF Pat Burrell................... 9.50
SP Randy Wolf.................. 9.00
SP Jon Lieber................... 7.25
C Mike Lieberthal............ 7.50
SS Jimmy Rollins.............. 5.00
3B David Bell..................... 4.50
SP Cory Lidle..................... 3.30
RP Rheal Cormier............. 2.50
IF Tomas Perez................. 0.70

Total.................................... 77.75
  • Arbitration eligible Phillies 2006
SP Brett Myers
OF Jason Michaels
RP Aaron Fultz
SP Vicente Padilla
OF Endy Chavez
  • Players with less than three years MLB service time
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
P Ryan Madson
RP Geoff Geary
  • 2006 Free Agents
RP Billy Wagner
RP Ugueth Urbina
CF Kenny Lofton
C Todd Pratt
IF Ramon Martinez
OF Michael Tucker
  • The Others - All under contractual control
C Carlos Ruiz, P Gavin Floyd, P Robinson Tejeda, P Eude Brito, OF Shane Victorino, OF Chris Roberson, P Pedro Liriano, IF Matt Kata

So to summarize, there are 11 players under currently under contract next year due $77.75 million. Let's say Wagner comes back for the 3-year, $27 million offer (the merits of this as a baseball move are clear, but the economics clearly complicate the matter - you won't see the last of this issue, we'll discuss it further as it develops). Anyway, if the Phils make that move that would mean 12 players signed for about $86.75 million (it would depend on the exact year-to-year structure of the Wagner deal). You still need 13 more guys to field a team. If every player was paid the minimum (absolutely not a possibility, 0%), the payroll would be bumped up to $90.65 million or so ($300,000 x 13 players = $3.9 million). All of this is kind of pointless since it assumes Wagner signs and, to me, that is one pretty big assumption. However, this little exercise does show us what kind of financial bind the Phils have put themselves in for 2006. But fear not - the situation is not hopeless. All it takes is a creative general manager willing to take some bold chances and.....oh who am I kidding, it's hopeless.

Doesn't make it any less interesting to talk about though.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fight the Power

So this morning I wake up and go to to check the overnight sports headlines. One in particular caught my eye - Proposed dress code doesn't suit some NBA players. Now I am sure I wasn't alone amongst the thousands of Philly sports fans in thinking what I did after reading that headline: Allen Iverson will be quoted in this article. I could comment on this, but I really like what Phil Jasner of the Daily News wrote about the issue, so I'll link that up. Is this a cop out by me? Maybe.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Playoff Time and the Ghost of Andy Ashby

The Phillies may have fallen just short of their postseason goal this year, but that doesn't mean we aren't dealing with a Phillie-less postseason. Well, actually that is exactly what it means. But it doesn't mean we aren't dealing with an ex-Phillies-less postseason.

Angels: Paul Byrd
Astros: Brandon Duckworth was left off the roster (turns out he wasn't even eligible, not that it would have mattered in his case), but it appears Ezequiel Astacio will make the cut
Braves: Johnny Estrada and Julio Franco
Padres: Adam Eaton
Red Sox: Curt Schilling and, of course, Tito Francona and much of the coaching staff
White Sox: Cliff Politte

I will be rooting individually for Byrd, Franco, Estrada, and Eaton. I will root against Schilling and Politte. I'm more or less indifferent towards the Houston duo, but seeing as though neither will probably see any action this postseason, I think that's ok.

Continuing my look at the 2006 Phillies, I present to you.......useless rumors and speculation. This stuff is not endorsed by anybody associated with Major League Baseball, but rather stuff I see while combing over various newspaper stories of the day. To that end, Jim Salisbury of the Inquirer mentions a number of teams that could potentially (italics are mine) have an interest in Jim Thome this offseason. Salisbury mentions the Angels, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Blue Jays, Tigers, Dodgers, Giants, and Astros as potential landing spots for the big guy. I realize it is very, very early in the offseason (technically there is still baseball to be played in some cities, go figure), but I'm not really sure if I see the value of naming roughly half (14 of 29 MLB teams not located in Philly) of the league as potential suitors for Thome.

I think I can knock off a couple of teams from that list - A's, Mets, Dodgers, and Astros - for various reasons, but, truthfully, any of the remaining eight could be viable candidates for a trade. So the question is, what does this tell us. It tells us that there is still so much we don't know about a potential Jim Thome trade and that this situation will unfold in a manner unlike any we've seen before in this town. There is so much uncertainty concerning Thome's value to the Phils, his perceived value around the league, his health status, his ability to perform at a high level, and the amount the Phils, or any other potential trading partner for that matter, will be able to pick up in salary when it does come time to make a deal.

To summarize: what we know is that very little is known - with one exception. The handling of the Jim Thome Situation (JTS? I think I like that, it could catch on) will be the most important series of decisions the Phillies will have had to make in a long, long time AND the resulting outcome of the JTS will impact the franchise not only in 2006, but in every year through the rest of the decade.

The Most You'll Ever Read About Four Marginal Relief Pitchers

With today being the first day without regular season baseball, it can be argued that today, October 3rd, is the beginning of the baseball offseason. Luckily for you, that is exactly what I am going to do. Except no actual arguing - just me saying so. So without further ado, I present to you the 2005/6 Major League Baseball Hot Stove League. Or the 2005/6 MLBHSL. Now that's just stupid. Let's just get this thing going already, shall we?

It was a busy day for teams finishing below the Phillies in the NL East. The Marlins and the Nationals both made changes as they look ahead to 2006 and beyond. The four men cut today were John Halama (Nationals), Antonio Osuna (Nationals), Tim Spooneybarger (Marlins), and John Riedling (Marlins). All relief pitchers. All at various stages in their careers. And all apparently interesting enough for me to write 1,500 words on.

We can recap for those not paying attention. Four names. Four relief pitchers. Various stages of their careers. All let go today.

John Halama is a guy I have always liked on a personal level dating back to his starting days with the Mariners. Maybe his inclusion in the Randy Johnson trade to Houston always made me think higher of him than his performances deserved. I also think I remember him for those 14 wins in Seattle in 2000. If the Phils go after him, that would mean that 2/5's of the Mariners rotation that year has passed through Philly. I mean who could forget the illustrious tenure of one Paul Abbott in 2004. I'll get it out of the way now. I'll defend Ed Wade more than most. Not to the point of being a Wade-supporter, but he has done some positive things while in charge. We can get into that later. But how can a real-life Major League Baseball General Manager with a $90 million payroll expect to stay in a pennant race with Paul Abbott going every fifth day? He was a Phil for three full months in 2004 (June 7 - September 8)! It really can explained as nothing short of a disgrace. To have so much invested in a ballclub and continue to start the Paul Abbott's of the world (Paul Abbott being the poster boy of the Paul Abbott's of the world, of course) is just too amazing idiotic to comprehend. I was afraid just typing these words my keyboard would self-destruct on me. His list of comparables through age 36 include Masato Yoshii and Armando Reynoso. Ask any Mets fan how wonderful those guys were. Go ahead, I dare you.

I'm sure Paul Abbott is a lovely man, so please don't take this the wrong way. But when a guy is cut by the Devil Rays (the Devil Rays!) then signed four days later to a team with dreams of winning it all, there is something very wrong in this world. I'm done with Paul Abbott. He went 17-4 in 2001 for the Mariners. Good for him. Looks like he made roughly $6.5 million in his pro career. Even better. I wish him well. Remember when I said we need to look forward and not backward? Yeah, I hope nobody was planning on holding me to that. But I'm done now. Seriously. Thanks to for the comparables and salary information. And, oh yeah, thanks but no thanks Mr. John Halama. That's my opinion and it happens to coincide with what I think the Phillies will do. So we can close the book on former Mariner pitchers - for the time being anyway (that's what we call in the business a tease...except I don't have anything more to add).

Antonio Osuna intrigues me. He had shoulder surgery in May, but that should only diminish his value on the open market. Why not take a chance on a guy like him if you can get him to come to camp as a Non-Roster Invitee? He turns 33 in April of '06, has had somewhat of a history of injuries in the past, but showed tremendous potential at the start of his career. Now of course, as previously mentioned, he will be 33 this upcoming season - what you see is what you get by at this point. However he has always had a good arm and with all the potential upheaval at the back end of the bullpen, why not take a chance on a low risk, high reward type guy? His status going into '06 depends solely on his bum shoulder. If it proves to be sound, more teams will come calling. I guess that is pretty much common sense. If a team offers him guaranteed cash, Osuna needs to take it. If not, he could do a heck of a lot worse than reporting to Clearwater in February.

Tim Spooneybarger - definitely a name that interests me. And why shouldn't it? It's hilarious. However, it also interests me as a baseball player and not just some freaky named sideshow. Time for a quick list of Pros and Cons and with me being the Negadelphian that I am we start with the Con's - its only natural:

CONS: The first is a major one - he hasn't really pitched in two years and is out again in 2006. This is truly the mother of all cons. Why are we talking about a guy who won't even pitch in '06? Patience, my friend, patience. I was the guy screaming at the Phillies FO to take a chance on Jon Lieber after his Tommy John surgery in 2002. The Yankees wound up paying him roughly $500,000 to rehab in 2003 and then $2.7 million in 2004. It wouldn't take nearly that amount to take a chance on Spooneybarger. Why not $500,000 in '06 to rehab, maybe a slight rise to something in the neighborhood of $700,000 - $1,000,000 in '07, and then, as far as my understanding on the subject goes, have the option to take him to his last year of arbitration in 2008? Back to the negatives though and this is something I maybe should have mentioned in more specifics earlier. His TJ surgery this year will be his second. That's not good news. There is really no way of telling how he will respond to the second surgery, both physically and mentally. The last thing that concerns me about Tim Spooneybarger is the simple fact the Braves traded him away. Atlanta's history with trading away young pitchers is well documented - they just seem to have a knack of knowing the right ones they can afford to lose. Maybe the Braves knew something about Spooneybarger's mechanics that could potentially lead to arm trouble; maybe the Braves just flat out didn't like him as much as I do; or maybe, and this is my hope, the Braves jumped at the opportunity to acquire Mike Hampton (and have the Marlins and Rockies pay his salary while they were at it) and were ok with dealing a promising young arm to get them a pitcher they thought could get them back over the hump.

PROS: Well I began to argue the positives in the CONS section (shows what kind of Philly fan I am), but to me the upside of a deal like this is simple. The walk to strikeout ratio (26-33 in 2002, 39-68 career) indicates Spooneybarger might have done it with smoke and mirrors to some degree, but I'll make an exception for a 22-year old who pitched as well as he did for a pennant contending team. By the time the 2007 season rolls around, Spooneybarger will be 27 years old. Give him half a season to shake the rust off and enjoy the year and half of quality relief at a controlled price that only a Spooneybarger can provide.

So with me typing "Spooneybarger" out every time instead of coming up with a clever nickname (all I got is "Spooney" and "Barge-Man", I'm not very good at this), it appears we've run out of time for John Riedling. Another guy I have always liked for some reason or another. I think if you can get him as a NRI if is well worth a shot, but I can't see the Phils giving him any guaranteed money. Anyway, I could get into all that or I could just mention that his number one comparable according to is Toby Borland. I could go off on a whole other tangent about Toby Borland. In fact, it would be incredibly easy. Toby is one of my all-time favorite Phils. How could he not be? The porn star moustache, funky delivery, and charitable causes he supported just made him so gosh darned lovable. Not to mention he was a key inclusion in the Rico Brogna trade in 1996. Borland and Ricardo Jordan for Rico Brogna. How could you not love Rico? I could go on forever with this, so I will end this right now. Can you believe this was only day one of the 2005/6 MLBHSL? (If you've made it this far, well first off god bless you, and second off, there is no way you remembered what that stupid acronym meant - even I had to go back and check. Hey, I make no apologies. I'm a sucker for a good acronym. Even more so for a bad one...)